Authored by: Ben McLeod
PED 3177 A


1) What is a Reading Deficiency?

The Ontario Curriculum (2007) defines “reading fluency” as “the ability to read with sufficient ease and accuracy to focus the reader’s or listener’s attention on the meaning and message of a text. Reading fluency involves not only the automatic identification of words but also qualities such as rhythm, intonation, and phrasing at the phrase, sentence, and text levels, as well as anticipation of what comes next in a text” (213).
Extrapolating from this definition, a “reading deficiency” would include the inability to perform any or all of these functions with sufficient ease and fluency.

2) How Do We Assess Reading Ability in Ontario?

The most common and well-known assessment of reading ability is the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). The Ontario Curriculum states that:
“All students must meet a literacy requirement in order to graduate. The standard way of meeting the requirement is to write and pass the OSSLT, normally in grade 10. Students who do not pass the OSSLT on their first attempt may meet the literacy requirement either by rewriting and passing the test or by successfully completing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course, normally in grade 12” (10).
The following provides a valuable summary of the importance of the OSSLT in helping assess the potential for student success at the secondary level of reading and writing:

3) Challenges that May Contribute to Reading Deficiencies

1) Exceptional Learning Styles: Exceptional students are those who have unique learning styles that may include behavioral, physical, intellectual, communication, or multiple components. Students are identified as exceptional on a case-by-case basis and effective pedagogy must account for the individual learning styles and needs of each student when designing and assessing curriculum that will lead to student success. A student who has dyslexia for example will require differentiated instruction from a student who has a learning disability.

2) Multilingual Students: Those students whose first language is not English are presented with a significant challenge in attaining reading fluency. Dr. Jim Cummins addresses the challenges and opportunities of educating English Language Learners (ELL) in his article Promoting Literacy in Multilingual Contexts. Some of the programs available to ELL students to help in their student success include "English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Literacy Development (ELD) programs" (Ontario Curriculum, 31).

3) Individual Learning Styles: Not all students learn the same way or progress at the same rate. Students typically learn best through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic means. Not only do students process and absorb information differently, recent research also indicates that there is a difference in the appeal of types of information based on gender: “Recent research has shown that many boys are interested in informational materials, such as manuals and graphic texts, as opposed to works of fiction, which are often more appealing to girls”. (Ontario Curriculum, 33). An interesting study done in Australia highlights the challenges of increasing boys' literacy and suggests that boys tend to be more interested in reading "real-world" material and better express their knowledge through activities such as "debating and acting". Literacy in Boys Given all of these variables, a good teacher will attempt to provide numerous choices in both content and presentation that will appeal and contribute to all students' success.

4) Strategies and Approaches for Assessing and Addressing Reading Deficiencies

1) Encourage extensive reading: Present choices of reading material that will challenge and pique a student’s interest level. A great resource that matches a reader’s ability level to reading material is the Lexile Framework for Reading:

As this video shows, matching an individual's reading ability to reading material that is challenging yet doable is essential to improving reading comprehension and enjoyment. The Ontario Report on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction entitled "Education for All" (2005) gives five instructional strategies to improve reading fluency:

1- Guided reading groups - a teacher provides guided oral practice to groups of students at the same level of fluency, using text that is at the students' independent reading level.
2- Choral Reading - students read together in a group which allows for repeated reading.
3- Peer-assisted learning - pairing students of mixed reading abilities offers a good model for the provision of feedback.
4- Reading while listening - a student who experiences anxiety reading aloud before others can use an audiotape of another person reading the passage fluently as a model. The student can read the text aloud while listening to the tape.
5- Maintaining interest and motivation through repeated reading - this should be the teacher's key objective. For example, Readers' Theatre provides an opportunity for students to practice their "lines" many times in order to perfect their "performance". A student may be willing to read a passage several times if his or her goal is to record it on audiotape as if he or she were a radio announcer. (p.101).

2) Encourage students to utilize the school library and its wealth of information and knowledge to their advantage. One idea that has proven valuable in helping students read is to have them record their readings on a Reading Record Chart. This gives them both a visual record of their progress as well as helping them see connections in their readings. A simple printout can be obtained on this website: Reading Record Chart

3) Leverage Technological Literacy: It is important for students to be able to construct texts in multiple genres in the 21st century. Dr. Janet Hughes highlights the important role that new media and technology can play in presentation and comprehension of poetry in her article Poetry: A Powerful Medium for Literacy and Technology Development . There are numerous ways of assessing a student’s comprehension of poetry through the presentation of digital or recorded poems to represent an existing poem through the use of multimedia. Below is such an example:

4) Employ Literacy Coaches: Literacy coaches can play invaluable roles in improving student comprehension and enjoyment of reading. Literacy coaches may use techniques such as Retrospective Miscue Analysis (RMA) where a teacher will listen to a student read a text and mark his or her miscues on a a typescript of that text. The student is then encouraged to examine why they may be misreading certain words which allows them to identify areas of weakness of which they need to be aware. A great article that highlights the value of literacy coaches in increasing student reading achievement is The Effectiveness of Literacy Coaches

5) Dealing with English Language Learners (ELL): One of the biggest challenges confronting teachers is the issue of multi-lingualism. Multi-lingual students are often faced with the challenge of expressing their knowledge base through a language they are not confident in. Dr. Cummins has a valuable article that proposes that students in this case require encouragement and that educators can build their students' confidence in the English language by:
1- Linking the curriculum to students' prior knowledge.
2- Associating the dual languages whenever possible and using dual language books to encourage the students to write and present whenever possible in both languages and then translate.
3- Teaching in ways that affirm the students' identities. For a complete reading of Dr. Cummins' article please see Promoting Literacy in Multilingual Contexts

6) Employing Differentiated Instruction for Specific Cases: All students have unique personalities, experiences, and learning styles. A good teacher recognizes this and will attempt to create effective teaching strategies on a case by case basis. A student with dyslexia will naturally require a different strategy than a student with ADHD. This may entail the use of various instructional strategies such as:

- visual cues
- auditory cues
- manipulatives
- pictures, diagrams, graphic organizers
- previewing of textbooks
- pre-teaching of key specialized vocabulary
- encouragement of peer tutoring and class discussion
- strategic use of students' first languages,
- use of a variety of learning resources - i.e. visual material, simplified text, bilingual dictionaries, culturally diverse materials (Education for All, 101).

One piece of software currently available that incorporates many of these suggestions is the Clicker5 which helps students read and write with words, pictures, and sounds. A sample tutorial of this software is depicted below:

7) The Power of Belief: Central to all reading strategies and individual cases however is the need to give students self-confidence that they can read. Jennifer Wilson emphasizes this point in her article "Interrupting the Failure Cycle: Revaluing Two Seventh-Grade Struggling Readers" when she says, "Teaching reading strategies isn't enough to disrupt the failure cycle. If students believe they cannot read, teaching new strategies becomes pointless". A teacher who takes the time to help students understand what they do well and where they can improve will be building a relationship based on trust that will provide the framework for struggling readers to learn and ultimately appreciate the joy of reading.

5) Lesson Ideas

1) Lesson Plan: "I Remember That Book: Rereading As Critical Investigation" (Encourages Rereading and Reflection)
Have your students investigate their own reading habits, past and present. This lesson begins with a reflective writing activity that has students explore their memories about reading. Students then create a map that plots significant encounters with books and a visual representation in which they sketch what they do when they choose not to read. Next, students brainstorm their most vivid memory of pleasurable reading, select a book to reread, and write a series of reflections on their original reading of the book. Finally, students study and write essays about rereading. (Overall Expectation: "Reflecting on Skills and Strategies". Specific Expectations 4.1, 4.2, 3.1, Ontario Curriculum, 2007).

2) Lesson Plan: "Authentic Persuasive Writing to Promote Summer Reading"(Encourages Extensive Reading)
Devote time during your last weeks of school to promote summer reading by inviting students to create brochures and flyers that suggest books and genres to explore during the summer months. Students first work in small groups to examine a variety of booklists, synthesizing the attributes of effective booklists. Next, students determine a focal point (genre, topic, etc.) for their booklists and gather appropriate information. Finally, students examine an example of persuasive writing, considering audience and purpose. They then write text for their booklist fliers or brochures, with audience and purpose in mind.
You can customize the lesson, if desired, to promote reading any time of the year. (Overall Expectation: "Understanding Form and Style". Specific Expectations 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.3, Ontario Curriculum, 2007).
Summer Reading

3) Lesson Plan: "Pictures Tell the Story: Improving Comprehension With Persepolis" (Reading Visual Text)
Graphic novels, which tell real and fictional stories using a combination of words and images, are often sophisticated and involve new and intriguing topics. In this lesson, students examine the art and craft of the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and assess the impact of visual elements on their comprehension of the beginning of the story. The goal of the lesson is to get students started so that they can successfully read and analyze the rest of the book. They will also explore the recent history of the Middle East as presented by Satrapi. (Overall Expectation: "Reading for Meaning". Specific Expectations 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, Ontario Curriculum, 2007).
Pictures Tell the Story

4) Lesson Plan: "Assessing Cultural Relevance: Exploring Personal Connections to a Text" (Valuable for English Language Learners)
As a class, students evaluate a nonfiction or realistic fiction text for its cultural relevance to themselves personally and as a group. They first write about a story that they identify with and share their responses as a group. As a class, they then analyze the cultural relevance of a selected text using an online tool. After completing this full-class activity, students search for additional, relevant texts; each choose one; and write reviews of the texts that they choose. Selected texts can be any nonfiction or realistic fiction piece—books, documentaries, television programs, and films and students are encouraged to choose texts that are personally relevant to themselves and their peers. This lesson is an especially powerful choice for English language learners. (Overall Expectation: "Reading For Meaning". Specific Expectations 1.1, 1.5, 1.8, Ontario Curriculum, 2007).
Assessing Cultural Relevance

5) Lesson Plan: "21st Century Informational Literacy: Integrating Research Techniques and Technology" (Encourages Literacy Development Across All Spectrums)
This lesson incorporates graphic novels to help students expand their reading, writing, research, and technology skills. Students first read graphic novels to become familiar with the text structure, then research a self-selected topic using web-based resources. Students follow the research process and synthesize the information they obtained to create their graphic novel using the Comic Life software or other comic software. This unit works best with students who are already familiar with writing a research paper. (Overall Expectation: "Understanding Form and Style". Specific Expectations 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, Ontario Curriculum, 2007).
21st Century Informational Literacy

6) Resources


Promoting Literacy in Multilingual Contexts
Poetry: A Powerful Medium for Literacy and Technology Development
Content Literacy
The Effectiveness of Literacy Coaches
Literacy in Boys


Ministry of Education - Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8, English
Ministry of Education - Ontario Curriculum Grades 9-10, English
Ministry of Education - Ontario Curriculum Grades 11-12, English
Ministry of Education - Ontario Curriculum, Literacy Course
Ministry of Education - Reaching Every Grade 7-12 Student
Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test
Reading Record Chart
Many Roots, Many Voices: Supporting English Language Learners in Every Classroom


1. "Interrupting the Failure Cycle: Revaluing Two Seventh-Grade Struggling Readers", Jennifer Wilson, Voices From the Middle; May 2005; 12, 4; ProQuest Education Journals.
2. "Ensuring Transfer of Strategies Using a Metacognitive Teaching Framework", Michelle Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace, Voices From the Middle; May 2008; 15, 4; ProQuest Education Journals.
3. Education For All (2005): "The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students With Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6". Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005.
4. Teaching English Language Learners: A Differentiated Approach, Carol Rothenberg and Douglas Fisher, Pearson Education, 2007.

7) References:

1. Ministry of Education - Ontario Curriculum Grades 11-12, English
2. Dr. Cummins, University of Toronto, Promoting Literacy in Multilingual Contexts
3. Victoria Clay and Deborah Hartman, University of Newcastle, Literacy in Boys
4. Education For All (2005): "The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students With Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6". Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005.
5. Dr. Janette Hughes, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Poetry: A Powerful Medium for Literacy and Technology Development
6. Drs. Jacqueline Lynch and Steve Alsop, York University, The Effectiveness of Literacy Coaches
7. "Interrupting the Failure Cycle: Revaluing Two Seventh-Grade Struggling Readers", Jennifer Wilson, Voices From the Middle; May 2005; 12, 4; ProQuest Education Journals.
8. Tom Lynch, "I Remember That Book: Rereading as Critical Investigation" Rereading
9. Traci Gardner, "Authentic Persuasive Writing to Promote Summer Reading", Summer Reading
10. Janet M. Ankiel, "Pictures Tell the Story: Improving Comprehension with Persepolis", Pictures Tell the Story
11. Traci Gardner, "Assessing Cultural Relevance: Exploring Personal Connection to a Text", Assessing Cultural Relevance
12. Jennifer Freeman, "21st Century Informational Literacy", 21st Century Informational Literacy

| | 1) What is a Reading Deficiency? | 2) How Do We Assess Reading Ability in Ontario? | 3) Challenges that May Contribute to Reading Deficiencies | | 4) Strategies and Approaches for Assessing and Addressing Reading Deficiencies | | 5) Lesson Ideas | 6) Resources | 7) References: